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This is BBC World News Today. I'm Tim Willcox.
A major blow for Iraq's security forces as militants linked to
al-Qaeda take control of parts of two major cities. Iraqi special
forces are battling militants in Fallujah and Ramadi who've seized
police stations, freed prisoners and set up checkpoints.
The first of the helicopters to take us home! Rescued at last after a
Christmas on ice. 52 people are airlifted from their ship, which has
been stuck in the Antarctic for a week.
Also coming up: Celebrity chef Nigella Lawson speaks out about the
fraud trial of her assistants, in which she was accused of regularly
using cocaine. To have not only your private life
but distortions of it put on display is mortifying.
And forget about the Great Wall. China now boasts an engineering feat
fit for the 21st century. We go for a ride.
Hello and welcome. Iraqi special forces have launched a major
operation to try and reclaim two cities which have come under the
control of militants linked to al-Qaeda. The Islamic State of Iraq
and the Levant - SIL - have reportedly captured several police
stations in Fallujah and Ramadi, both in Anbar province, taken
weapons, freed prisoners and set up checkpoints. It comes as the United
Nations claimed 2013 was the deadliest year in Iraq since 2008,
with more than 7,800 civilians and 1,000 members of the security forces
killed in violence there. Rafid Jaboori reports.
It is the first time since the withdrawal of the US forces that the
Iraqi government has lost control of two major cities. Significant parts
of Ramadi and Fallujah in Anbar province have fallen to the militant
fighters of Al-Qaeda, but the government is fighting to reading
them. Tension has been high since last week in the heartland of
Iraq's Sunni majority -- minority. On Monday, protest camp in Ramadi
was dismantled. The Sonys have been protesting against the Shia
government for months. But the government has now secured
significant backing from Sunni tribal leaders. Last year was the
most violent year in Iraq since 2008, with thousands killed and
injured, mainly in attacks on Shia areas and security forces by
Al-Qaeda. With the support of tribal leaders, the government might be
able to regain control of Anbar, but the long-running problems in the
Sunni areas will need more comprehensive political deals.
In another sign of instability in the country, a suicide bomber has
killed at least 12 people and injured more than 75 at a market 70
kilometres north-east of Baghdad. Brad Blakeman is Professor of
Politics and International Affairs at Georgetown University in
Washington. He was also a member of President George W Bush's senior
staff from 2001 to 2004. Thank you for joining us on the programme.
America has sent 75 missiles and is talking about sending some Eagle
surveillance drones as well. Should it be doing more, given what is
happening in Iraq? Well, President Obama has made it clear that he is
not going to do more, and it is up to the international community now
to step up. We will help the best we can, but it is up to the Iraqis now
to stand up for themselves, and if they can't do it after all the
opportunity that the United States and Britain and other countries have
given to them, then they need to meet their own fate. So specifically
with the United States, do you agree with President Obama's stance? The
missiles and drones are some things, but what about more help in terms of
surveillance and into full -- infiltration. We should make sure
that the allies do not get a foothold in Iraq that they seem to
be getting in some of these areas in Fallujah and Ramadi. So it is in our
allies' interest to make sure that this doesn't happen and help them to
be self-sufficient enough to get the job done so that our allies will not
have to go in and augment that with troops or other support. What about
the sectarian split? Do think international pressure should be put
on them to make the Sunnis more represented within Iraq? There are
internal and external factors, a lack of representation in Iraq, and
externally, the war in Syria. And that is where the UN could be of
great value, to bring reconciliation to factions that have broken off. It
is incumbent on the UN under its charter to do that, which they are
charged to do, which is to go in and bring the parties together, and get
the current government to acknowledge that things must change
in Iraq, there must be not only an acknowledgement, but policies must
change in order for them to bring stability and peace within their own
borders. What about the role of Iran and Saudi Arabia here as well. What
sort of international leveraged can be put on them, especially given the
apparent rapprochement between the United States and Iran? There is no
question about it that outside forces are instigating a lot of the
violence within Iraq, and that has got to stop. We have to secure as
best we can and help them with their borders, and bring pressure up on
outside nations who are causing a lot of the mischief within Iraq, and
unfortunately, we have taken our foot off the sanctions, which are
starting to be of great significance in Iran. And I think our president
has been making a great misstep in taking his foot off some of the
sanctions, because it is not in the interests of the region, and it may
not even be in our interests that it was done. This has led to the deaths
of more than 8000 civilians. I wonder if there is any moral
necessity for America to take part in this, and how optimistic are you
that this will ever be resolved? We have had the threat of civil war so
many times before. Well, let's take a look in America's history. When we
declared independence, it took was 11 years to get our act ever, and
within 100 years of our independence, we had a civil war,
600,000 Americans dead, brother against brother. You cannot will
civility, it has to be earned. But only if it is going to mean
something and it will be the lubricant well thought out, and just
to do something to say that we did something is not enough. We have to
have results if we are going to do anything. Thank you very much indeed
for joining us on the programme. Sectarian violence has also flared
up again in Lebanon. Tensions heightened between Sunnis and Shias
because of the war in neighbouring Syria. In the last few hours, at
least six people have been killed in a car bomb attack in a southern
suburb of Beirut, a stronghold of the Shia militant group Hezbollah.
It comes just days after a Sunni and a critic of Hezbollah was killed by
a car bomb. Our correspondent Corine Torbey is at the scene and we'll get
the latest from her in just a few minutes.
Now to the crisis in South Sudan, where fierce fighting continues even
as efforts to end the violence get under way. Delegations from the
warring factions led by President Salva Kiir and his former deputy
Riek Machar are meeting for peace talks in the Ethiopian capital,
Addis Ababa. Aid agencies say many civilians inside South Sudan are in
desperate need of help and shelter. They estimate up to 75,000 people
have gathered on the banks of the Nile looking for help, after
crossing by boat from the town of Bor. Our correspondent Alastair
Leithead is at the camp. We don't know exactly how many
people have made the trip across the Nile river that is just behind me
here, but it is more than 75,000 people. That is like a sports
stadium full of people suddenly arriving here, and this is where
they are ending up. They are coming here and just sitting under the
trees. This is the only shelter they have got. And this goes all the way
down this bank of the Nile, all the way in for a couple of miles into
that area, huge numbers of people. And they have nothing. They grabbed
what they could, came here without much food. And the water isn't
clean. These guys here with these buckets on their head, that is water
collected from the Nile, dirty, bad water. On this side, we have a
clinic that has been set up by Medecins Sans Frontieres, two small
clinics with a handful of staff, and they have been trying to deal with
increasing numbers of people coming in with really bad diarrhoea, among
the many children, and we have heard of babies who have died of diarrhoea
because there are no facilities here. In the background here, you
can make out the first signs of aid coming in. This is truck loads of
food, the committee internationally of the Red Cross have come in and
brought food and supplies, and they are trying to do this in an
organised way. You can see the queues of people waiting, organised
by which area they are from to try to make sure that this is given out
fairly to those people who need it most, but more needs to come. It is
a five-hour drive of a bad roads to reach this area, and the UN is
already aware of the situation. It is a humanitarian crisis. The
fighting is continuing across the river. There are people over there
who can no longer come over on boats because it is too dangerous for
them. Even to get here where there is nothing is better than being in a
town held by the anti-government forces, and there is a serious risk
of more intense fighting breaking out in the days ahead.
He's been in a coma and vegetative state since 2006, but doctors in
Israel say the condition of former Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon has
worsened in the past 48 hours. Doctors say his organs are failing
and his life is in danger. From Jerusalem, Kevin Connolly reports.
At the medical centre near Tel Aviv, Israel waits anxiously for a medical
bulletin on the health of the former Prime Minister, who has been in a
coma for eight years. When the news comes, it is not good.
TRANSLATION: Mr Ariel Sharon shows some signs of deterioration in the
following two days, with some critical miss function, malfunction
of some of his organs, including his kidneys. He is under treatment, but
we feel that the situation is critical, and some danger is
expected for his life. Ariel Sharon's life may be slipping
away now, but in his heyday, they called him the bulldozer. The
forceful soldier and politician saw himself as an uncompromising
defender of his country's interests, in war and in peace. We remember his
contributions, sacrifices he made to ensure the survival and the
well-being of Israel, and I have many personal thoughts about my
meetings with him, on many different occasions. Always robust and strong
and clear about his position. His name may be for ever associated
with the massacre inside Palestinian refugee camps, carried out by
Christian militia in Lebanon during Israel's invasion of 1982, but Ariel
Sharon's life story was bound up with a history of his country from
the moment of its birth. He fought in the war of independence in 1948.
Israel's enemies hated Ariel Sharon, but people will remember him
as someone whose career dated back to the very foundation of their
state. Now they wait with concern as his fate again hangs in the balance.
Much attention is also focused on the hospital in France, where former
seven-time Formula One world champion Michael Schumacher is still
being treated for head injuries following a skiing accident on
Sunday. He's been in a critical condition after falling and hitting
his head on a rock. He received a visit on Thursday from the head of
the FIA, Jean Todt, who was also his boss during his time at Ferrari.
It's Schumacher's 45th birthday on Friday.
Let's get more now from Lebanon, where a bomb has exploded in a
southern suburb of Beirut, killing at least six people. It was very
close to the Central office of Hezbollah. We can go to the scene
now and speak to the BBC's Corine Torbey. This is likely to stoke
sectarian tensions there even more, isn't it? Yes, a lot of tension,
especially as this is not the first attack in this area, but also within
Lebanon an last Friday, a former finance minister was also
assassinated, and the security situation is believed to be
deteriorating by the day in this country. In terms of the group
behind it, this is seen as tit-for-tat, is it? As the sectarian
nature of the Civil War in serious bills over the border? Well, there
is a wide belief that what is happening in Lebanon is very much
linked to the situation in Syria. What happened today, many people
think that it is a deterioration for Hezbollah's role in Syria, and its
involvement in some of the troops in the Shia party alongside government
forces in Syria. Lebanon has also its own problems, and it is a very
congregated situation, and it is very hard to understand what is
happening. -- a complicated situation. People are trying to make
sense of all of this violence that is taking hold of the country. Not
helped by the fact that Lebanon has been paralysed politically. This is
a very divided country, not only along political lines, but on
sectarian lines. Lebanon has been without Government for around nine
months. Political parties are unable to come together. There are real
fears that amid all of this in security, and made all of this
division, the situation might go further and further. Thank you.
Let's bring you some breaking news. About the killing of a Briton and a
New Zealander, both gunshot wounds, in western Libya, that is according
to a security source on writers news agency. The body was found on the
coastal area. It is about 100 kilometres west of Tripoli. At ACAS
Park complex. -- at ACAS complex. Police in South Africa have begun a
murder investigation into the death of a leading role and an opposition
figure Patrick Karegeya whose body was found in a hotel room. They said
that he may have been strangled. The former intelligence chief Fred
Rwanda after he was accused of plotting against his former ally
President Paul Kagame -- President Paul Kagame.
In the upmarket district, Patrick Karegeya came to this hotel on
Wednesday to meet a man from Rwanda whom he said to have trusted.
Yesterday, he was found dead in one of the hotel rooms. The police have
launched a murder inquiry. When the police were called, police were
given the possibility that he might have been strangled and a bloody
Tower was found on the scene. Patrick Karegeya fought against Paul
Kagame with the random picture that front. After the 1994 genocide, he
was Rwanda's external intelligence chief. He fell out with...
In 2007, he went into axe out in South Africa, where he was granted
political asylum. Together with a former army chief he formed a new
opposition party, The Rwanda And National Congress. Undoubtedly an
assassination. Patrick Karegeya did not have any problems with people in
South Africa. He didn't have any differences within the organisation.
We also know... This week's Kelling has thrown the spotlight on the
Rwanda and axe Isles who had in the past been warned of attacks on them.
The government continues to deny trying to kill its political
opponents. All 52 passengers on board a Russian
ship that has been stuck in the Antarctic have finally been rescued.
The research vessel became trapped in the ice on Christmas eve during a
fierce storm. Ice breakers made attempts to reach the strip ship,
but were awarded. Helicopters were used to carry passengers to a rescue
ship. Look at that. What a handsome craft
that is. It was the site that everyone had
been waiting for, the first rescue helicopter descending onto the same
eyes that had kept me and all on board the ship, the Akademik
Shokalskiy, stranded for over a week.
Previous attempts to bring about the rescue of the scientists and
tourists on board had been aborted due to poor weather. Finally, the
skies were clear. The first of their helicopters to take us home
passengers were taken to an Australian icebreaker. The rescue
operation lasted several hours. I was one of those who made this
journey. You were watching the last group of people that you have been
ferried from the Russian vessel through about a 15 minute wait
knuckle ride helicopter ride to just outside the Australian icebreaker.
Scientists on board the Akademik Shokalskiy had been recreating the
journey of Douglas Mawson and his 1911 voyage to Antarctica. On
Christmas Eve, thick flows of ice judge and by strong winds had left
the vessel unable to move further. Singing auld lang syne, expedition
members celebrated New Year by working towards their own rescue.
We're getting the team to stamp down on this snow and ice so the Chinese
helicopter can reach us. Finally, the rescue could go ahead.
The Aurora Australis is now breaking through the ice. The eventual
destination, the Australian state of Tasmania.
For the crew of the Akademik Shokalskiy, the weight remains. They
will have to hold out until the ice surrounding the ship breaks out.
That could be many more weeks. Pakistan's former president has been
taken to hospital with heart problems. He was due to appear in
court with treason charges when he reportedly fell ill. A spokesman
said he is conscious and is being examined by military doctors.
Japan's Coast Guard has rescued a Chinese man who tried to reach a
bunch of disputed islands by hot air Berlin. The islands are known by
Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China and are administered by Tokyo.
Nigella Lawson has said it was mortifying to have details of her
personal life and drug-taking revealed in court. Speaking in her
first interview since her assistants were cleared of
defrauding her and her former husband Charles Saatchi of hundreds
of thousands of dollars, she told a US TV station that her only desire
in the court case was to protect her children.
We know you have had quite a year. The reason Nigella Lawson was on
this show was to talk about her cookery programme. One topic could
not be avoided. Her recent experience on the witness stand at
the trial of her two assistants To have not only your private life, but
distortions of it, is mortifying. There are people going through an
awful lot worse and to dwell on it or on any of it would be self-pity
and I don't like to do that. In that court appearance, she had been
accused of being a regular user of cocaine. She denies this. The
intense interest in her life had begun before the trial. These photos
of her and her now former husband Charles Saatchi appeared. Over the
months, her private life has become very public. That appearance in
court was bruising. She said, her reputation had been maliciously
vilified. Today, she reappeared more
reflective than angry, but still wounded by the experience. You are
Mack were only desire really was to protect my children. I can always do
that, but that is what I wanted to do. -- could not. Since then, I have
details of chocolate and had a good Christmas and iron into the New
Year. Time to move on. -- I am. Our feelings about the way she had been
treated in court were clear. -- her feelings.
The city of Shanghai claims to have set a new milestone, two new Metro
lines which opened this week will take its total length to more than
500 kilometres. The city has been laying new track at a pace faster
than anywhere else in history. But it is not the only Chinese city in
the grip of a tabloid frenzy. -- tunnelling.
It is hard to believe that the Shanghai Metro system is barely 20
years old. The pace of expansion has been
breathtaking. It is now the world's longest subway
network. With the opening of lines 12 and 16 this week, the first to
stretch over 500 kilometres. TRANSLATION: I used to take the bus.
That took ages. This is great. It saves me 30 minutes on my normal
journey. I am really happy. As of this week, Shanghai has 567
kilometres of operational track, leaving London languishing with 400
and New York even further behind with just 330: Matters. In the game
of my Metro is bigger than yours, China looks likely to remain the
champion. The Beijing Metro is now the world's second longest. 16
cities already have subway systems and at least 18 more have begun
construction. If nothing else, it is a sign that there is little letup in
big government spending, despite the talk of having to rebalance the
economy. This week, Shanghai announced a ban on passengers eating
on board, but the appetite for growth is undiminished. In the next
few years, another 230 kilometres will be added, more than the total
length of the Paris Metro. It goes on and on. But is it from
us. The weather is coming up. Goodbye.
After a brief lull, things are going downhill again very quickly with
more wind and rain over the next few days and we can expect more of the
same with an ongoing likelihood of flooding. This is the situation
right now. This set